When we decided to send our three children to a Christian day school, we weren’t operating under the influence of “CRC auto- parenting.” Many things influenced our choice—but before we get to that, here are a few considerations that didn’t factor in when we chose a Christian school.
• We didn’t send our kids there out of fear. We don’t consider Christian schools to be “greenhouses” that will shelter our tender children from the evils of our society—whether those are the smaller evils of vulgar language or the bigger evils of secularism. We both attended Christian schools and know firsthand that evil, big and small, can live there too.
• We didn’t send our children to a Christian school out of despair. We don’t think of public schools as being beyond hope and redemption. Shirlene has taught in a public school for a number of years, and we are strong supporters of increased funding for public schools.
• We also didn’t send our children to a Christian school out of striving ambition. Christian schools can’t guarantee that our children will score higher on state administered tests (which we think are overrated anyway).
So why do we send our children to a Christian school? In a nutshell, we send them there out of faith, hope, and love.
We believe God has entrusted our children to us for a short time as they mature. At their baptism, we promised to “do all in our power to instruct our children in the Christian faith.” We have a deep and wide view of this faith. When we confess that Christ “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17), we want our children nurtured in just such a big, wide, wonderful faith. When we confess that Christ “is making everything new” (Rev. 21:5), we want our children to be taught how they can be part of this glorious enterprise, this coming of his kingdom.
If we have one complaint with the trend in education in North America, it’s not that too much is taught, but too little. Curriculum is often cramped and squeezed into a form that is easily digested and won’t ruffle too many feathers. Added to this, ignorance is often portrayed as the greatest human problem and education as our only hope. This simply isn’t so. Sin is our problem, and only new life in Christ offers true hope.
Ideally Christian schools should offer an education that is bigger, bolder, and more hopeful. In this context, education is a great big adventure that explores both the good and the bad. Creation is both fragrant with the glory of God and made fragile by sin. Christian education trains minds to hear the groans of creation--to see what has gone wrong. And yet Christian education is ultimately a deeply hopeful enterprise, because Christ is King and he is reconciling all things to himself.
Christian schools are at their most glorious when they embrace the astonishing claim that nothing in creation is unredeemable and no creature is beyond the grasp of Christ’s grace. It is this deep-seated covenantal hope that we pray settles to the bottom of each child’s heart.
We send our kids to a Christian school out of love for God and love for them. God’s people have always been in the education business. In fact, churches invented public schools. Only in the past few centuries have governments gone into the education business whole-hog.
But as Christians—whether Reformed, Roman Catholic, or Lutheran—we have always been in the business of setting up Christian schools because we seek to love God with all our heart, with all our strength, and with all our mind. We love God. We love our children. And we love having the privilege of sending them to a Christian school.
By God’s grace we send them there because of faith, hope, and love—and the greatest reason is love.
Meeting Fresh Challenges
The Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church has a long-standing provision that reads
The council shall diligently encourage the members of the congregation to establish and maintain good Christian schools in which the biblical, Reformed vision of Christ’s lordship over all creation is clearly taught. The council shall also urge parents to have their children educated in harmony with this vision according to the demands of the covenant.
—Church Order and Rules of Synodical Procedure 2004, p. 19
Synod 2005 of the Christian Reformed Church, meeting last June in Palos Heights, Ill., reaffirmed this policy and adopted a series of motions to meet the new realities that have developed over time. One such adopted recommendation reads as follows:
That synod advise the members and churches of the CRC to consider the responsibilities they bear both for Christian education and for doing evangelism as vitally important and complementary and declare that support for Christian education should never be used to undermine the work of evangelism and that evangelistic outreach should never be given as a ground for failing to support Christian day school education . . .
—Advisory Committee 9, Synod 2005
About the Author
Rev. Mike Abma and Shirlene Van Eek Abma are members of Woodlawn Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Mike sreves as pastor. Shirlene works as a tutor for students at Grand Rapids Christian High. They have three children.